Springtail diversity in South Africa

  • Charlene Janion Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University
  • Anne Bedos Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle
  • Jan Bengtsson Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • Louis Deharveng Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle
  • Bettine Jansen van Vuuren Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University
  • Hans Petter Leinaas Integrative Biology Group, Department of Biology, University of Oslo
  • Amy Liu Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University
  • Anna Malmström Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • David Porco Laboratoire ECODIV, UFR Sciences, Université de Rouen
  • Steven L. Chown Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University
Keywords: Collembola, fynbos, decomposition, invasive species, barcoding


Despite their significance in soil ecosystems and their use for investigations of soil ecosystem functioning and in bioindication elsewhere, springtails (Collembola) have not been well investigated in South Africa. Early recognition of their role in soil systems and sporadic systematic work has essentially characterised knowledge of the southern African fauna for some time. The situation is now changing as a consequence of systematic and ecological work on springtails. To date this research has focused mostly on the Cape Floristic Region and has revealed a much more diverse springtail fauna than previously known (136 identifiable species and an estimated 300 species for the Cape Floristic Region in total), including radiations in genera such as the isotomid Cryptopygus. Quantitative ecological work has shown that alpha diversity can be estimated readily and that the group may be useful for demonstrating land use impacts on soil biodiversity. Moreover, this ecological work has revealed that some disturbed sites, such as those dominated by Galenia africana, may be dominated by invasive springtail species. Investigation of the soil fauna involved in decomposition in Renosterveld and Fynbos has also revealed that biological decomposition has likely been underestimated in these vegetation types, and that the role of fire as the presumed predominant source of nutrient return to the soil may have to be re-examined. Ongoing research on the springtails will provide the information necessary for understanding and conserving soils: one of southern Africa’s major natural assets.

Author Biography

Bettine Jansen van Vuuren, Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University
Molecular Genomics Group, Department of Botany and Zoology
Stellenbosch University


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